States form alliance to defend US climate momentum

US states accounting for almost 30 per cent of national gross domestic product have pledged to meet the country’s commitments for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the Paris climate agreement, in defiance of President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he intends to withdraw from the accord.

California, New York, Washington and five other states have said they are committed to cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels, which was the reduction proposed for the US by Barack Obama in the Paris agreement. The coalition, called the United States Climate Alliance, also pledged to meet or exceed the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation envisaged under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which Mr Trump has promised to scrap.

Responsibility for energy policies in the US is shared between federal, state and local governments, a fact that bedevilled Mr Obama’s attempts to impose national limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and is likewise complicating Mr Trump’s attempt to roll back those curbs.

The mayors of 187 US cities, with a total population of 52m, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix, have also agreed commitment to uphold the Paris agreement goals and increase their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution think-tank said actions by states, cities, and corporations “cannot recoup all the momentum that might be lost, but might make up for part of it”.

The states joining the new coalition plan to work together on issues such as energy regulation and product standards, to create harmonised rules for emissions-reducing technologies, increasing market size and encouraging investment.

Richard Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York State, said: “The more we can work together, the more we can reduce costs for the renewable energy industry.”

The size of the coalition states’ economies mean they could in some cases shape standards for the entire US, as California has done with vehicle emissions limits.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who is now the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change, said on Friday that US states, cities and businesses “will aim to meet the US commitment to reduce our emissions 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 . . . even without any support from Washington”. He is launching a parallel effort to co-ordinate those state, local and business commitments, called America’s Pledge.

The states joining the new Climate Alliance mostly have Democratic leadership, but two have Republican governors: Massachusetts and Vermont. In aggregate, they would be the world’s third-largest economy, behind the US and China, and ahead of Japan. But they account for only about 13 per cent of US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, as they exclude many of the highest emitting states including Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and…

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